Through the first quarter of the NFL season, there’s a clear top five in the race for league Most Valuable Player — including the two most recent winners.
Though the Ravens' Lamar Jackson and the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes aren’t front-runners, they’re not far behind. Here’s a look at who’s trending up through Week 4:
1. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (last week: No. 1)
One week after setting the record for most touchdown passes through a team’s first three games (14), Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record with 16 through the first four. He threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins, and it seemed like an unspectacular day for the six-time Pro Bowl selection. The Seahawks have scored 30 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time since 2015 and are 4-0 for the first time since 2013. Wilson is playing better than any quarterback in the league right now.
2. Bills QB Josh Allen (last week: No. 3)
Allen’s improvement as a passer has been nothing short of stunning. He was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded quarterback in Week 4 entering Monday’s games after completing 24 of 34 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Raiders and added his third touchdown run of the season for good measure. He trails only Wilson and Aaron Rodgers with 12 touchdown passes this season and is completing 70.9% of his attempts with just one interception while ranking fourth among quarterbacks in expected points added per play (0.403). The Bills are 4-0 for the first time since 2008, and Allen is the biggest reason why.
3. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (last week: No. 2)
Rodgers lit up the Falcons on Monday night, completing 27 of 33 passes (81.8%) for 327 yards with four touchdowns, including three in the first half. Even more impressive, he did it without starting receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, who missed the game with injuries. Atlanta’s defense is banged up and lost even more players Monday, but picking apart an NFL team the way Rodgers did with players most people couldn’t name, let alone want to put on a roster in their fantasy leagues, is still impressive. The 37-year-old is second in the league with 13 touchdown passes, and Green Bay is 4-0.
4. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (last week: No. 5)
Mahomes was far from perfect Monday night in a 26-10 win over the Patriots, throwing two would-be interceptions that were dropped and another that was bizarrely blown dead and not reviewed. But even his subpar games are the kind most quarterbacks would kill for. He completed 65.5% of his attempts, threw two touchdown passes (though both came on touch passes inside the 10-yard line) and was sacked just once while scrambling for 28 yards. Through four games, he has 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, and the Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to start a season 4-0 for the fourth consecutive season. He didn’t deserve his stat line Monday night, but it won’t be held against him when the end-of-season accounting is done.
5. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (last week: No. 4)
While not quite as dominant as he was in 2019 so far this season, Jackson flashed his MVP form with a career-long 50-yard touchdown run and two touchdown passes in Sunday’s win over Washington. He’ll have to fight an uphill battle the rest of the season to prove he deserves to be just the fifth player in league history to win consecutive MVP awards, joining Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, but he’s more than capable of putting up huge numbers on a team that will be in the thick of the race for the AFC’s top seed. That will be hard to ignore.
In the running
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (last week: not ranked): Prescott has the most passing yards through the first four weeks of a season in NFL history (1,690) and is the first quarterback to throw for over 450 yards in three consecutive games. Too bad his Cowboys are 1-3 after losing Sunday to the Browns. Still, he’s on pace to throw for more than 6,000 yards, which would smash the NFL record of 5,477 set by Peyton Manning in 2013.
Rams QB Jared Goff (last week: not ranked): Goff isn’t putting up eye-popping numbers, but he’s completing 72.1% of his passes with six touchdowns and two interceptions and ranks fifth in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (8.20). The Rams are 3-1 after a win over the Giants and will test the Seahawks and Packers for the top seed in the NFC if Goff keeps playing this way.
Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (last week: not ranked): The three-time MVP threw five touchdown passes in a comeback win over the Chargers, rallying the Bucs from a 17-point deficit. Through four games, he ranks third in the league with 11 touchdown passes and 11th in EPA per play while passing for 280.5 yards per game. Tampa Bay (3-1) is poised to end the NFL’s second-longest active playoff drought at 13 years if Brady keeps holding off Father Time.
Colts QB Philip Rivers (last week: not ranked): He doesn’t have the counting stats that typically merit an MVP award (246 yards per game, four touchdowns, three interceptions), but Rivers has the highest completion rate of his career (72.7%) and ranks seventh in EPA per play (0.282) among qualified passers. Thanks to one of the league’s best defenses, the Colts are undefeated and could contend for a top seed in the AFC, which would at least put Rivers in the conversation.
Titans QB Ryan Tannehill and Patriots QB Cam Newton: After getting off to strong starts, both players were derailed by COVID-19 in Week 4. The Titans had their game against the Steelers postponed after 20 team members, including players and staff, tested positive last week. Newton tested positive himself and missed Monday’s game but was the only Patriot to receive a positive test, allowing the game to continue a day after it was scheduled.